Character Stability – Let’s Rock the Boat
So, you have a great character and a great story. Everyone will want to read it but, if you’re anything like me, you spend a lot of time questioning your own work and your own assertions – the main question being WHY? Why would people want to read about this character?
I think the key problem a lot of people have is ensuring that the character isn’t flat and boring because, as great as they may seem, they are too stable (not mentally – although that works too). Even an exciting character can be boring if they are totally stable. So what do I mean by that??
Take Norman Nomad (the little guy on the Nomad Novelist’s Logo below, who sits and reads with quills coming out of his butt) he is a Royal Marine Commando, a professional rugby player and holds degrees in Law and Physics. He spends his weekends racing motorcycles and most weekdays saving children and puppies (and yes girls, under his robe he has a washboard stomach too) – he’s exciting. But if I were to tell you about his life it would soon get dull as he faces no real challenges – he may win or lose a bike race but who cares; there’s nothing ‘riding’ on it – he is stable.
Now Norman has received some information; a letter formed from cut-out newspaper clippings – if he wins the next bike race then ‘there will be trouble’ – Hang on? Trouble?? Sounds kinda interesting – A third party has now begun to destabilise Norman and actually there may be something worth reading here – will he win, will he throw the race? What does ‘There will be trouble’ even mean?
Norman won the race – he ignored the letter as he receives a load of hate mail anyway( handsome people often do!) but he has returned home to find his house trashed and his family gone – police sirens sound and his mobile rings – his family have been taken and he is now the prime suspect in their abduction – If he wants them back he has to travel to Rio and win an underground bike race (to the death!!!) – If he is captured, his family die – if he doesn’t get to Rio and win the bike race, his family die – If he loses the race, he and his family die!
Norman’s position has been completely destabilised and now I (and I reckon a lot of others) will want to know what will happen. He has a great skill set to deal with this problem, intellect, physical capability and training etc but he has to do something and fast!
This may be an exaggerated example of destabilising a character. It can be accomplished in many more subtle ways, such as a problem that they must overcome or a personal challenge they have to face – but whatever happens, your character cannot remain totally stable and comfortable for long,regardless of how exciting you believe their life to be – the story depends on it. So rock that boat and see what your characters do
Thanks for reading
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